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How to Use Twitter to Conquer the World

May 26, 2009
A friend of mine asked me today why I use Twitter. I realize I’ve mentioned it on the blog a few times recently, and I have that scrolling Twitter box on the right, so I thought I’d talk about how I use this service. Note that I’m a casual user–I post once or twice a day, and I hardly spend any time checking on tweets (as explained below).
What It Is: In short, Twitter is an instant-messaging service that sends out short messages to a bunch of people at once.
Phone: I post to Twitter from my phone on occasion, but I don’t receive Tweets on it. I’ll explain why in a minute. I would receive tweets on my phone if I could limit incoming tweets to specific people, which you can probably do on your fancy iPhone.
Home/Work: Home and work are pretty much the same. On both computers, I have a program called TweetDeck. I can post to Twitter or my Facebook status from TweetDeck. The program also automatically shortens URLs (comes in use when posting links to articles). The best thing about this program is that it displays incoming tweets in several different columns–All Tweets, Favorites, Direct Messages, and a Tag Cloud.
When I first started using Twitter, I didn’t use a program like this, so all of my tweets came through in one long column. It was a big distraction. Although it’s a hard concept to understand without using Twitter, you want to follow a bunch of people, but you don’t really care what all those people are saying.
That’s why the “Favorites” column in TweetDeck is awesome. The program operates on the background of my computer, so whenever a “Favorites” tweet comes through, a little box appears in the upper right hand corner of my screen to let me know. I can click on it to see the message in TweetDeck–reading it takes about 2 seconds. And then, unless there’s a link to a cool article, I’m done.
I probably spend about 2 minutes a day on Twitter, but I’m able to consume a lot of information, and thanks to the “Favorites” function, most of it is info I’m actually interested in. Oh, and as for the tag cloud, that’s the thing that lets you see what other people are tweeting about. I check that from time to time as well.
Followers: A lot of people will try to follow (or, in Facebook terms, “friend”) you. That’s okay. For the most part, the strangers who follow you just want you to follow them to increase their followers. I don’t reciprocate for a lot of those people, but thanks to TweetDeck, I easily could do so without ever reading their tweets.
People I Follow: I mostly just follow friends and bloggers who I think are interesting. Most of the friends I follow never post anything.
What I Tweet: Well, you’ve probably seen what I tweet. I try not to tweet much about what I’m doing right now, because that’s boring. I will do that if (a) it’s funny or (b) it’s something that I think other people should or shouldn’t do. Like, I think I tweeted that I went to Potbelly the other day and had a happy stomach, because I think other people should go to Potbelly. Same for movies, bars, etc. For the most part I just try to tweet observations that I think are funny or recommendations or articles that are worth reading. And I post a link to my blog every day.
Why You Should Get on Twitter Even If You Never Want to Send a Tweet: I read an article the other day about a Southwest Airlines employee who checks Twitter all day to see what people are saying about the company (on Twitter, you get a message whenever someone mentions your Twitter name, and you can also set it to get notifications whenever anyone posts…well, anything. Like “Stegmaier” “awesome blog”, etc.) So this employee looks for people to complain about the company (“Just got off SW flight…stewardess was really annoying”), and she addresses the complaints immediately, directly to the customer. No need to wait for people to send a letter and respond with a free pass–just an instant response, possible a short conversation, and the customer walks away feeling engaged and listened to.
Think about how you can use this for your company, personal brand, or pretty much anything. Create a Twitter account, put in some relevant search terms, and then directly interact with people all over the world. I think that’s worth something.
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